Introduction: Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is widely used by families of children with special health care needs (CSHCN), mainly as an integrative approach with regards to conventional treatments. Nonetheless, studies comparing CAM usage among families of CSHCN with different pediatric diagnoses are sparse. The present study aimed at investigating features of CAM usage among Italian families of CSHCN with different common pediatric diseases. Methods: One-hundred and twenty-one families were interviewed about access to conventional treatments and CAM usage for the care of their children. Four groups were identified based on childrens' diagnosis: autistic spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, genetic syndrome, and pediatric tumors. Main areas of investigation were pharmacological treatment, access to conventional rehabilitation programs, typology of CAM used, scopes of CAM usage, maternal perceived efficacy, CAM expenditure per month. Results: Access to traditional pharmacological treatment and conventional rehabilitation was unrelated to CAM usage. Mothers of children diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorders were found to use more CAM, with higher economic expenditure and lower perceived efficacy compared to the other groups. Conclusions: The present findings document different patterns of CAM usage among families of CSHCN with different diagnoses in Italy. Clinical and ethical insights for family-physician relationship are further discussed.
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